The Roast: Green Buying Terms of the Trade

A Brief Overview of the Language and Processes of Buying Green Coffee

This week, along with our sister company Casa Brasil, we will finalize selections for our first shipment of Brazilian coffees for the 2018–2019 harvest. As roasters, we obviously want to get our hands on the best coffees we can find, but it is equally important that the coffees we select arrive quickly and are accurately represented throughout the supply chain. Coffee is an agricultural product that begins to degrade the moment that is it harvested, so the sooner we can get it roasted and brewed, the better. Coffee that is contracted at origin will go through multiple processes and can change hands several times. We sample our selections at various steps along the chain to ensure that quality is maintained throughout and that the coffee we select at origin is the same coffee that arrives in our Austin warehouse. The following is a brief guide to some of the purchasing, sampling, and shipping terms critical for navigating the world of green coffee buying.

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Contracts: Futures, Forward, and Spot

Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world behind crude oil, and thus there are many approaches to the way it is bought, sold, and traded. Future contracts (or “futures”) are legal obligations to purchase a standardized amount of a product at a fixed price on a predetermined date. In coffee, futures are typically sold by the container (37,500 lbs), and delivery months are March, May, July, September, and December. These contracts are bought, sold, and traded on the New York Stock Exchange and their movement along with supply and quality projections play a big role in determining the “C-market” value of coffee at any given time. Futures traders, even if they will never see an actual coffee delivery, have great impact on the value of coffee and nearly every contract written in the industry, large or small, is calculated based on coffee’s C-market value.

Forward contracting is a broad term that encompasses the way many roasters purchase green coffee. Like futures, forward contracts require a set price to be paid on a predetermined delivery date, but unlike futures, these contracts are not traded on an open exchange and are usually between an actual buyer and seller, not just speculators who will never touch the product. While forward contract pricing is often based on futures, it does not have to be. In Brazil, for example, we attempt to operate outside of the C-market. Under this very simple model, we request a certain quantity and a quality threshold and agree to a fixed rate in advance, assuming our requests are met. This way the producers know what we expect from them, and they know what they can expect from us in return. This greatly reduces unexpected risk on both sides from volatile market swings and allows producers to invest in quality improvements without the fear of financial losses due to factors out of their control.

The most simple contract and perhaps the most common among small roasters is a spot contract. “Spot” refers to the purchase of a product for immediate payment and delivery. Coffees purchased spot are typically available in the seller’s warehouse and are ready for immediate release to the buyer. While these transactions are fast and easy, relying on spot coffee is risky as there is no guarantee that a roaster will be able to fulfill all of their needs this way. The most sought after coffees are typically forward contracted, and thus much of the coffee arriving from any given origin is already spoken for. For roasters looking to maintain consistent flavor profiles and quality year-over-year, forward contracting is strongly recommended.

Samples: Type, Offer, PSS, Arrival

Throughout the buying process we receive samples of green coffee at various stages. Each green sample that arrives in our Austin warehouse is visually inspected for defects and then roasted for cupping. During the cupping process we assign each sample a sensory score determined by evaluating attributes like aroma, flavor, aftertaste, and acidity. In addition to determining overall quality, samples are evaluated for a host of other purposes. The following are a few of the most common sample types:

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A type sample is representative of the quality and/or flavor profile that a seller can provide. These are often used to establish new relationships and to introduce a potential buyer to an unfamiliar product line. Contracts can be established using type samples, but they are typically followed by offer samples once the parties narrow down profile and quality needs.

An offer sample is representative of an actual lot of coffee that is available for purchase. The coffee could be at origin, in transit, or ready for immediate spot purchase. Once a buyer approves an offer sample, further terms are then set for additional expectations and sample approvals.

A pre-shipment sample (PSS) is a sample sent for approval just before a contracted lot of coffee is shipped from origin. The PSS should be an accurate representation of the entire lot as it will arrive. Many contracts are subject to PSS approval and can be rejected if the buyer is unhappy with their evaluation.

The final sample we will receive before our coffee is delivered to Austin is an arrival sample. This sample represents the lot that has arrived in the U.S. and is ready or being prepared for release to us. We prefer our coffee to be shipped to Houston, but sometimes logistics require it to go through busier ports like Oakland or Newark. Regardless of where the coffee lands, a lot can go wrong on its journey. Storage or weather conditions can affect the coffee, bags can break, spill, or even be lost. An arrival sample is used to ensure that the approved PSS is the same coffee that has arrived in the U.S. Some contracts are subject to arrival sample approval and if rejected can result in no sale or an obligation for the seller to replace the rejected coffee with an approved lot.

Shipping Terms: FOB, FOT, FAS, and EXW

Another important element to consider when contracting and shipping coffee internationally is liability. Who pays for what and who is responsible if something goes wrong? The following terms are used to establish when the coffee will change hands—more specifically, when the cost of logistics and risk are passed from the seller to the buyer.


The most common form of International shipping is called FOB, or Free on Board. Under this model, the seller relinquishes all risk and expense to the buyer once the freight is loaded onto the ship. In simple terms, once the coffee is on the boat, the seller’s obligation is complete. The buyer will handle import and additional warehousing and delivery costs as well as assume all risk if the freight is lost or damaged in transit. Similar freight models include FOT (Free on Truck) if the freight is being shipped by ground transportation, and FAS (Free Alongside Ship) where the seller delivers the freight to the port but the buyer is responsible for loading fees and risk.

Another common contract type is  “EXW, Ex Works, or Ex Warehouse. This one is simple. The seller fulfills their obligations when the goods are available for pick-up at their premises. This could be at warehouse at origin where the buyer would be responsible for pick-up, loading, export/import, etc. but more commonly it means the coffee has already been imported and is ready to be released to the buyer. Spot contracts, for example, are usually EXW.

International trade and shipping are clearly complicated, but understanding some basic terms and, more importantly, building relationships throughout the chain can be the difference between a smooth transaction and a logistical nightmare.

Bright Lights, Little City: Andrew Hilbert


by Andrew Hilbert

I'm a California boy. Sorry folks, there’s not much I can do about that. It's just where I happened to fall out. Before I moved to Texas, I thought it was nothing but desert and cow shit and I didn't think I'd be here too long. The first I'd ever even heard of Austin was via Live at Stubb's, Matisyahu's live album that made him a star for about five minutes. I moved to San Antonio first and was immediately taken aback by all the trees. It was nothing like every movie I'd ever seen about Texas.

SXSW was a major destination for me. I first started calling it ES EX ES DOUBLE YOU because I had never heard it uttered via the lips of a human being before. Then I read an article on a tech blog that proudly proclaimed only outsiders call it by its full name. Locals call it southby. After 8 years of living here, I'm closer to a local than I was before because I'm now pronouncing it pain in the ass.

You see, it's easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day about how much Austin's changing, and that's your right, but there's a ton of great stuff here that exists nowhere else in the world. I once saw a guy get arrested for DUI while he was on a horse.

When I was in California, I was restless and bored. I graduated from college just as the market crashed, and I had resigned to being a box boy at Costco forever. I was into reggae, like every good ol' college boy, and after a particularly hard session of drinking Costco-branded-Costco-sized tequila, I stumbled upon this Matisyahu CD. I said something like, "What the fuck is this?" and popped it into the CD player. Every song sounded the same.

"This guy was huge in Austin, dude," a friend said. "They have this music festival and he blew up."

I imagined a cowboy taking his horse to the trough outside a saloon while reggae boomed out of it.

Weed isn't even legal in Texas, how could it be cool for reggae?

Before I knew it, I was in Texas. It had nothing to do with Matisyahu.

I met my wife in Austin. Our first date was spent at Home Slice and walking up and down Congress. I tried to impress her with how cultured I was. I wore a button-up shirt, I wore brown jeans, I smoked cigarettes frequently, I talked about how much I liked In-N-Out. It's a miracle a second date happened. Our second date was at the Mohawk and was followed up by a late night session of climbing trees on the capitol grounds. Austin was feeling like home. Our third date was at the Alamo Ritz for Master Pancake Theater. It wasn't just a one-horse town. There was a lot to do and you could do a ton of stuff within the distance it took to throw a rock.

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I made my center of cultural experience Book People, and when I left my job in San Antonio, I moved to Austin and applied. It's where I made all my friends, where I discovered hidden corners of Austin—; it's where I learned to become myself. As a writer, I know books don't pay the bills so I got another job as a barback at Radio Coffee & Beer. I thought I was going to work two jobs the rest of my life, but it became pretty clear that Radio was going to be my new home. My best friends are at Radio, the customers and the co-workers. We're allowed to be creative while working and we've all played a role in defining Radio as a creative hub for all types of artists. I've been there since day one and I'm still there and loving it.

I didn't come here with a condo in my eye. A series of mistakes got me here. Look, I still have some California tendencies. I'm a Lakers and Dodgers fan, but I'm coming around on Whataburger. But it isn't the sports teams or the corporate fast food that make a city or a state great. It's the art. It's the people. It's Matisyahu. And that's why Austin is the greatest city in the world.  

Bio: Andrew Hilbert is the author of Invasion of the Weirdos and Death Thing. He is the co-founder of Cockroach Conservatory. He is co-host of the podcasts Books & Beer, We Shot Mr. Burns, and the Cockroach Conservatory Spacecast. Keep up with him on Twitter at @AHILBERT3000 or at

Bright Lights, Little City: Kayo Asazu of Kome, Ni-Kome, Sa-Ten Coffee and Eats and Daruma Ramen

My name is Kayo Asazu. I am a mother, a wife, and I run five businesses with my husband Take. One of those businesses, Sa-Ten Coffee and Eats, introduced us to friends at Casa Brasil who gave us this opportunity to write about how I started my business.

I’ll start from day one, when I landed in Austin. It was March of 1996, and I was just 20 years old. I had taken a year off from college, and had originally planned to be here for just that year (which has turned into 22!). A week after my arrival, I met my boyfriend Take, who was also here to go to school, and we started dating shortly after.

In 1998, Take and I moved to New Orleans to transfer to colleges there, and two years later he graduated from the University of New Orleans and I graduated from the local community college. We decided to apply for a green card and went back to Japan for two years while our application was accepted. That same year, our first child, Kaya, was born. By 2002, we had finally received the green card and returned to New Orleans.

Take started to work as a chef at a local Japanese restaurant, and I was working as a server at another, and we started our actual “life” as a family. We were young and broke, so we had to work a lot. We both worked six days a week. Kaya was going to daycare during the day, so I would pick her up after my lunch shift and take her to our babysitter so I could go back to work the dinner shift. Since she spent most of her time with her babysitter, who was from China, her first word was Cantonese. I didn’t realize that was she was saying meant “water” until I saw her babysitter giving her a cup of water when she said it.

Being New Orleans, there were many days with several streets flooded. When it happened, it blocked the access to our babysitter, so I ended up taking Kaya to work with me. I let her in the small space under the sushi bar shelf with Origami paper and asked her to play until I got off work. Luckily, Kaya was a very good child, and she never gave me a hard time.

In 2003, our second child, Kenta, was born. A couple months before he was born, I stopped waiting tables and began to work as a host. Two weeks after he was born, I went back to work as a server again. It was very hard to work so many hours and raise two small children, but my husband and I would meet at local coffee shops between the shifts and enjoyed talking about our dream restaurant that we would own one day. While we thought about the fact that both our parents let us come to the United States and gave us opportunities, we promised ourselves that one day we would have our own restaurant and be able to give our children those same opportunities.

A few months after Kenta was born, we realized that Austin might be a better place for us to raise our children, so we returned. Over the next few years, Take worked as a sushi chef at local restaurant, Musashino, and I waited tables at a few restaurants whenever Take could stay at home and watch our children. In the meantime, I did some research about how to start a business, and visited a few nonprofit business advisory groups to learn from mentors, including Amy of Amy’s Ice Cream. I also visited a few banks across the city to seek funding, but everyone said that without the experience of running a business, I would not be able to borrow money.

Of course, I knew that no matter how many hours we worked, it was impossible to save enough cash to open a brick and mortar store, so we decided to start small. When we say small, we really mean it. Our first spot was a booth at the farmers’ market every Saturday morning, called Deli-Bento, where we sold Japanese bento boxes. We had just saved up enough for a used minivan so we could get the food to and from the market. At this point, since we did not have enough money for a small space, we also wanted to keep our restaurant jobs to secure income before committing to our own business. I remember that during this time, Take was probably working about 65 to 70 hours a week!

At Deli-Bento, we sold two different kinds of Bento lunch and a few individual entrees every week. We wanted our customers to try as many varieties of Japanese food as possible, so we spent a lot of time planning the menu so we could execute it every week. We would discuss the menu Thursdays, and on Friday I would start to prep by cutting vegetables and making sauces. Friday night, Take would get off work around 11 p.m. and take a nap for a few hours, then wake up and go back to the restaurant kitchen that we were renting. After Take would leave, I carried both kids out to the car and followed him to help until the morning. The kids would sleep in the booth seats while Take and I were cooking, and then we loaded everything into the minivan and sold the food at the market.

I remember that when Kenta was three years old, he would help us offer samples from our table. He would take a nap on the ice chest where we stored food and would make friends at the market. Every weekend was sleepless and tiring, but it was the first opportunity for us to showcase something we had cooked and sold with our own hands. When we saw the same customers come back for our food every weekend, it was such a happy moment. We still have many regulars that follow us to this day. After years of going to the market every Saturday, we were able to sell more food, and finally we saved up enough money to purchase a food trailer in 2009, our “round two.”

I acquired a trailer and it spent months in my driveway while we renovated the inside to run as a sushi trailer. The idea of running a sushi trailer versus the extension of Deli Bento was a simple choice for us, as we would have had to add a vent hood and other gas equipment inside that we could not afford yet. If we were just serving sushi, all we needed was the refrigerator and rice cooker to get the business rolling with minimal start up.

By the summer of 2009, Sushi-A-Go-Go was born. It was a joy to open every day, any time, since the farmers’ market had such limited hours. Although we had proved ourselves with Deli Bento, I was still not confident enough to jump into this full-time, so I asked Take to stay at his full-time job and started the business alone. The original trailer was parked at a small gas station on Manor Road.

People thought I was crazy to sell sushi out of a trailer, but I guess people had a misconception of a trailer not being clean enough for fresh seafood. Whether the attention was good or bad, it was good for my new business, and for the first few months, I spent all day every day in my trailer. I think the first day I only sold two or three rolls, but by the time the first year ended, I was able to sell 150 to 200 rolls a day, which isn’t bad at all!

Back when I was working in the small Japanese restaurant in New Orleans, I was trained by a sushi chef who was very hard and strict. He called me slow and dumb, but because of him, I was fast enough to execute multiple tasks in the trailer at the same time, such as greeting customers, taking orders, being the cashier, and making sushi.

A year after I opened Sushi-A-Go-Go, I was able to save enough to get a second trailer, so I asked Take to cut his hours at work so he could take care of the second trailer for me. By that point, we were doing well enough to ask Take to leave his job at Uchi, but since I knew we were very close to opening our brick and mortar store, I wanted him to stay in the industry and keep up with the trends while networking.

The second trailer, on Barton Springs Road, did just as well as the first one, and we saved enough to invest in our first restaurant by the spring of 2011. We finally found a reasonable place to start Kome Sushi Kitchen, and got started on renovations. Since our budget was still tight, I asked my long time friend Kazu to come help us from all the way in Japan, as he is a skilled restaurant designer. He showed up with a carpenter to make our dream restaurant. Along the way, many friends also would stop by when they had time to help us paint the walls or stain the wood. Our first restaurant was truly made by all of our generous friends.

I had imagined Kome as a small mom-and-pop restaurant with myself and maybe one or two servers to wait tables, and Take making sushi with the help of one or two other people. However, as soon as we opened, those who had followed us from Deli Bento and Sushi-A-Go-Go rushed to the restaurant, and we started to see more new customers every day. Now, six years later, we have moved to a new building a couple blocks from our original location and now have close to 100 seats and 80 employees.

In 2013, two years after we started Kome, we were lucky to be invited by Tim League, the CEO of Alamo Drafthouse, to move in to their brand new HQ building on 6th street. He is a big ramen fan, so he offered us the opportunity to start a ramen shop in the space called Daruma Ramen. When he offered it to us, it was only a few months after we had started Kome, and Take and I were both very tired. Take didn’t think we could do anything else at that time, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass us by, so I decided to open it without him.

The very next month, I flew to New York and Los Angeles to eat as much ramen as I could and observe the ramen shops and their customers carefully for research. I then flew to Tokyo to go to ramen school to learn to make ramen professionally. By March of 2013, Daruma Ramen was open. It was my intention to make the restaurant as small as possible, so it would give guests the feel of an authentic Japanese ramen shop. My concept was to offer the healthy, clean flavor of ramen using whole chicken broth, since I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to worry about my health when I decided to eat ramen every day. Again, I worked a lot for the first few months until I was able to train the staff well enough.

A few weeks after we opened those doors, another opportunity came our way. One afternoon I decided to get out of the shop during our break and get some fresh air. I visited Canopy art complex to visit one of my artist friends. I realized there was this beautiful, unleased space with large windows, and the interior was left with industrial features of concrete blocks, and metal beams, though the space was empty, I could totally picture artists sitting down there and having a good time with coffee and food. Instantly, I thought the place would be a perfect coffee shop. I knew I was too tired from opening Daruma Ramen and should not think about any more businesses.

After a few days I remembered the space and could not stop thinking of the image of people there enjoying coffee. I decided to call my long time friend, Motoyasu Utsunomiya, who used to join me at different coffee shops throughout the city, as we used to joke around: “One day, we should open our own coffee shop and serve great food and coffee at the same time!” He was in on the idea, and 17 months later, we opened Sa-Ten Coffee and Eats, which specializes in Japanese-influenced food and delicious coffee from Casa Brasil. It was our third restaurant, and I thought that was it.

As I mentioned, we moved Kome in 2017 to the larger location, but I didn’t want to give up the building we worked so hard to renovate with our own hands. Since it was where we started, I could not just leave, but I wanted to use it as a different concept. We figured it was the perfect spot for Sa-Ten’s second location. That same year, Kazu came back from Japan with two other friends, a carpenter and a metal worker. They helped us renovate the space yet again, this time from Kome to Sa-Ten.

Meanwhile, we received another great offer to join some other amazing local restaurants to open up Austin’s first food hall, Fareground at One Eleven. When I heard about this concept of having six popular local restaurants in one spot, it made me so excited and I knew we had to do it. We decided to come in with a sushi and ramen concept, Ni-Kome. Ni means two in Japanese, so it is the second Kome, but it also has elements of the menu from Daruma, so it is more like their child. Ni-Kome opened on January 18, 2018, and Sa-Ten’s second location opened the next day.

Today, I have five locations and about 150 employees total, so when I was dreaming of our small Japanese restaurant, I could not imagine this would be possible. I can’t give enough thanks to my parents, who raised me and gave me the opportunity to be in this country, my husband, who always trusted me, my two kids, who forgave me when I was not available as much as I wanted to be because of work, my friends and employees, who always supported me, and of course, our customers, who support all of us.

I am sure more will come, and I look forward to meeting more wonderful people and opportunities, but I will never forget how I started my business with my husband. I hope to keep opening those doors as if every day were the very first day of our booth at the farmers’ market.

The Source: Photos and Thoughts from Colombia July 2018

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Given its equatorial location, multiple harvests, and ever-changing harvest schedules, there is always a lot of activity on the coffee farms of Colombia, no matter what time of year we visit. Traditionally, Colombia’s coffee producers had two clearly-defined harvest seasons: the primary harvest occurring in the last quarter of the year, from October to December, and a secondary harvest, known as the “fly crop” or “mitaca,” during the spring and early summer (April to June). Traveling in July, a month that doesn’t often appear on the harvest calendars presented on many roasters’ and importers’ websites, I was not sure what to expect, but it became quickly apparent that those calendars don’t tell the whole story. Climate change, paired with often drastic environmental differences from one region to the next, has made the Colombian harvest nearly impossible to predict, and speaking with producers from different areas of the country revealed both the challenges and benefits of farming on the equator.

In Antioquia and Risaralda, two departments in the central part of the country, for example, producers were harvesting the final pickings of the mitaca and were already gearing up for the first pickings of the next harvest, due to peak in September-October of this year. Most producers I spoke with said they may have slow months with low yields between harvest peaks, but there is rarely a day with no fruit to pick. As we traveled south to Huila, the harvest was in full swing. Most producers we spoke with were hesitant to call the current harvest “mitaca” as the term implies a lower-yielding season with lower quality coffees. As they explained to me, the line between harvests has become quite blurred and they are essentially harvesting high-quality coffees year-round in the southern departments.

Understanding Colombia’s nuanced weather patterns, diverse environmental conditions, and changing regional harvest schedules is clearly a complex topic and perhaps better suited for a future post. I wanted to use the topic as an introduction to these photos, however, because I’ve noticed in my travels to Colombia that it feels like everything is happening all at once in an organized chaos. Harvesting, processing, drying, transport, milling, roasting, retail, export—all happening in concert, all the time. The entire chain operates 365 days a year. There is always fresh coffee coming down the pipeline, and despite its unpredictable nature, the wheels must keep turning. Perhaps their ability to constantly adapt and improve in the face of uncertainty is one of the reasons that Colombia is producing some of the best coffees in the world right now.

Santiago Londono hand-pruning a Geisha tree at Mallorca Farm in Valle del Cauca, where he grows primarily Geisha, Caturra, and Bourbon varieties. He has replaced many of the hybrid and resistant cultivars commonly found in Colombia in favor of varieties that he believes will produce the best cup quality.

Santiago Londono hand-pruning a Geisha tree at Mallorca Farm in Valle del Cauca, where he grows primarily Geisha, Caturra, and Bourbon varieties. He has replaced many of the hybrid and resistant cultivars commonly found in Colombia in favor of varieties that he believes will produce the best cup quality.

Hand sorting freshly picked cherries at Mallorca to remove underripe, overripe, and potentially defective coffee. Only perfectly ripe cherries will be make it in to Mallorca’s microlot offerings. The rest will be added to lower-grade blends.

Hand sorting freshly picked cherries at Mallorca to remove underripe, overripe, and potentially defective coffee. Only perfectly ripe cherries will be make it in to Mallorca’s microlot offerings. The rest will be added to lower-grade blends.

Natural coffees drying on raised and separated beds at Finca Mallorca. Each lot is closely monitored, and variables like temperature, airflow, and sunlight exposure can be manipulated to promote slow and even drying of the coffees.

Natural coffees drying on raised and separated beds at Finca Mallorca. Each lot is closely monitored, and variables like temperature, airflow, and sunlight exposure can be manipulated to promote slow and even drying of the coffees.

Dried parchment coffee arriving from a farm in Risaraldo to Asocafe Tatama’s warehouse in Santuario. The arriving coffee will go through green analysis and cupping in order to determine its quality and the coffee will either be rejected or accepted and purchased. Specialty-grade coffees will receive a premium over market value. Due to the limited output of most farms in the area and coffee prices at their lowest in years, many producers view quality improvement as their best chance of increasing income.

Dried parchment coffee arriving from a farm in Risaraldo to Asocafe Tatama’s warehouse in Santuario. The arriving coffee will go through green analysis and cupping in order to determine its quality and the coffee will either be rejected or accepted and purchased. Specialty-grade coffees will receive a premium over market value. Due to the limited output of most farms in the area and coffee prices at their lowest in years, many producers view quality improvement as their best chance of increasing income.

Risaralda producers talking shop on a rooftop drying patio near Santuario. We spent the day with members of six Risaralda growers associations and were blown away by the generosity, support, and knowledge shared among the coffee community in the area. The producers there  believe that with their unique terroir and quality improvements they could one day be known as one of the premiere coffee growing regions in Colombia.

Risaralda producers talking shop on a rooftop drying patio near Santuario. We spent the day with members of six Risaralda growers associations and were blown away by the generosity, support, and knowledge shared among the coffee community in the area. The producers there  believe that with their unique terroir and quality improvements they could one day be known as one of the premiere coffee growing regions in Colombia.

A view of La Plata, Huila from a farm in Belen. The majority of our current Colombian coffee is grown in these mountains and delivered to the city below for purchase. Their unique coffees are sweet and balanced with strong caramel and citrus notes, a versatile profile featured prominently in our Congress and Republic blends.

A view of La Plata, Huila from a farm in Belen. The majority of our current Colombian coffee is grown in these mountains and delivered to the city below for purchase. Their unique coffees are sweet and balanced with strong caramel and citrus notes, a versatile profile featured prominently in our Congress and Republic blends.

Parchment coffee at a warehouse in La Plata. The next stop for this coffee is the dry mill where it will be hulled, sorted, blended, bagged, and prepped for export.

Parchment coffee at a warehouse in La Plata. The next stop for this coffee is the dry mill where it will be hulled, sorted, blended, bagged, and prepped for export.

Marco Fidel Rodriguez of Finca El Balcon using a refractometer to take a brix reading from his coffee cherries. The reading represents the amount of sugar present in the fruit’s juice and will help him to determine when his cherries are at optimal ripeness for picking.

Marco Fidel Rodriguez of Finca El Balcon using a refractometer to take a brix reading from his coffee cherries. The reading represents the amount of sugar present in the fruit’s juice and will help him to determine when his cherries are at optimal ripeness for picking.

We had a great time at Finca El Balcon, the birthplace of one of my favorite coffees of the last year. It was a pleasure to bring this coffee back to the farm and to share it with Marco and his family. It was almost as good as the sancocho and arepas that they shared with us. We are eagerly awaiting samples from their current crop and can’t wait to visit again next year!

We had a great time at Finca El Balcon, the birthplace of one of my favorite coffees of the last year. It was a pleasure to bring this coffee back to the farm and to share it with Marco and his family. It was almost as good as the sancocho and arepas that they shared with us. We are eagerly awaiting samples from their current crop and can’t wait to visit again next year!

The Roast: Sample Roasting for COTW

Back in March I had the pleasure of assisting Joel with Little City’s latest educational offering - Coffees of the World. Building on the positive response to the inaugural class offered a few months prior at Belo Horizonte’s International Coffee Week, the level 2 class took place at the lab of the Brazil Specialty Coffee association in Varginha, Minas Gerais and was expanded from one day to three. This gave the students, most of whom were coffee professionals and experienced coffee tasters, the chance to dive slightly deeper in to coffee’s diverse origins. Through a series of lectures and lots of cupping we explored the histories, genetics, processing methods, flavor profiles and major regions of the world’s key coffee producing countries.



Flash forward to June. I receive a message from Lyvia, a member of our Brazil team, asking if I could help prep for another COTW class. This would entail sourcing and roasting 30 unique coffees specifically tailored to the origins and regions determined by the course’s curriculum. No problem! I’d done this for the previous two classes and had a strategy down. The catch this time, however, was that the coffees needed to be sourced and roasted and in Atlanta in less than a week as Joel was passing through and would pick them up on his way home to Brazil.



I’ll leave out the details of how we pulled all the coffees together so quickly, but instead say we couldn’t have done it without help from some of the excellent importers that we work with and even some help from competing roasters here in Austin who were generous enough to share a few pounds of green to help us fill the gaps. With 30 unique coffees from 13 different countries on-hand, we were now ready to roast them - all the same way.


One might think that you would want to treat a natural coffee from Yirgacheffe differently than a washed coffee from Huila, and this is generally true when developing a coffee’s roast profile for commercial production. In an academic or quality evaluation setting, however, the goal is a neutral roast that allows the coffee’s true character to reveal itself. We often compare a good sample roast to good soccer referee. They are at their best when they go unnoticed. The following are the Specialty Coffee Association’s recommended protocols for sample roasting:


  • The roast level for cupping shall be measured between 30 minutes and 4 hours after roasting using coffee ground to the SCA Standard Grind for Cupping and be measured on coffee at room temperature. The coffee shall meet the following measurements with a tolerance of ± 1.0 units:

    • Agtron "Gourmet": 63.0

    • Agtron "Commercial": 48.0

    • Colortrack: 62.0

    • Probat Colorette 3b: 96.0

    • Javalytics: same as Agtron measurement using either "Gourmet" or "Commercial" scales

    • Lightells: same as Agtron measurements using "Gourmet" scale

  • The roast should be completed in no less than 8 minutes and no more than 12 minutes. Scorching or tipping should not be apparent.

  • Sample should be immediately air-cooled (no water quenching).

  • When they reach room temperature (app. 75º F or 20º C), completed samples should then be stored in airtight containers or non-permeable bags until cupping to minimize exposure to air and prevent contamination.

  • Samples should be stored in a cool dark place, but not refrigerated or frozen.



Having only small amounts of a few of the coffees and not a lot of time, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for error nor were we able to cup every sample before shipping off to Atlanta. In fact, as I am writing this, the classes have just ended and I’ve not yet received much feedback on the roasts, but having followed both SCA and in-house protocol, I am confident that our roasts were consistent and more importantly, that they went unnoticed.

Bright Lights, Little City: World Cup Slackers

For many Austinites, including myself, soccer exists all year every year. Whether it’s the casual pick-up player at Zilker Park on Sunday mornings, the competitive men’s and women’s leagues, the dedicated club bars around town, or the Lone Star Youth Soccer Club, soccer thrives in our little city. In fact, in 2017, the Precourt Sports Venture announced its desire to move the Columbus Crew to the bustling town of Austin. I can only imagine the sadness a Columbus fan felt, but for Austin it would be a great opportunity for our first professional sports team. For many Austinites, having our own club and stadium would be an absolute dream. The equal/opposite feeling for both Austin and Columbus is much like the feelings of trepidation any American soccer fan has felt for at least the past 28 years: mediocre highs followed by unbearable lows followed by a sense of hope and potential followed by—without fail—a phoenix-like implosion. So to honor the possibility of Austin’s very first professional team and of course the World Cup, I figured some cathartic storytelling is just what the doctor ordered.


It’s not the most popular sport around here, so do not fret if you were not following along with the United States Men’s National team’s qualifying campaign. Our impractical, arrogant ambitions led us to our first failed qualifying campaign in 28 years. Some people blame the coach, some people blame the players, some the domestic soccer league. In all honesty it’s all of them. For some reason the USMNT forgot that nothing is guaranteed and that it wasn’t long ago we were laughably terrible.


As a millennial born in ’89, it was damn near impossible to imagine a World Cup without the United States, because we deserve it, of course. In 1988, the U.S. was awarded the honor of hosting the World Cup in 1994. Our nation's patriotism shone bright, and if we were going to host it, we had to be great, dammit! To the rest of the world’s dismay, in 1990, the U.S. had qualified for its first world cup in 40 years. With a magnificent victory over Trinidad and Tobago! What’s more American than taking on two countries at once? Sadly, the U.S. lost every group stage game in 1990, but the fire was lit and there was no way we could perform that badly at home.  


During the U.S.’s 40 year hiatus from the sport, the rest of the world had become enchanted with the beautiful game. While the U.S. isolated itself during the Cold War, assuming anything European or foreign to be socialist and communist, the rest of the world was focused on kicking a ball around and maybe tying 0-0, the U.S. officially fought three wars (to be fair, we kinda tied those too), invented color TV and the microwave oven, and put a man on the moon. So what if we weren't good at soccer? We had MTV and democracy. In 1994, we had been rejuvenated with our very own American badass’s of non millennial blood lines, equipped with denim jerseys and the occasional mullet.


Marcelo Balboa, ladies and gents. Repping these beauties on home soil, we actually made it out of the group stage only to lose in the round of 16. Can’t remember who won that year; not important either way. The U.S. had solidified itself as a contender and a soccer-playing country.


Full of gusto and vigor, over the next two decades the U.S. established its own league, developmental academies, and infrastructure. One of my favorite parts of the 90’s was the American twist we brought to our own league. Whereas other countries referred to their teams with the names of their host towns, we went full blown bald eagle on it, creating teams like the Kansas City Wizards or the Dallas Burnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. If these names don’t induce a little internal chuckle, I don’t know what could. Since then we grew up a little and these teams changed their names to Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas. Professional teams instituted their own developmental academies, and overall the quality of soccer in the United States has gone up. Unfortunately we still value the star power of washed up foreign players like Wayne Rooney or David Beckham over our own youth, thus giving less opportunity for internal growth. They took our jobs, essentially.



In the 2000’s and up until 2016, our finest players actually played in some of the hardest leagues abroad, testing their mettle against the world’s finest on a regular basis. Big surprise, we weren't very good, and our players didn’t make a lot of money compared to the superstars. The MLS changed its tune and started recruiting the big name U.S. players hoping to get butts in seats, taking the second-rate pros to overpaid, over-glorified, soft, tattooed sissies. Yeah I said it, sissies.


After a tough qualifying camplaign, where the USMNT lost to teams from Central and Caribbean countries (whose stars play in our domestic league), the U.S. failed to qualify. Only to be let down with a full-circle failure to qualify for the 2018 world cup in our last game of qualifiers against… two countries: Trinidad and Tobago! (Had we played them individually, I don’t think it would have been a problem.)


Good news, the 2026 World Cup will be hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. That’s right, we qualify no matter what. The brightest up-and-coming stars for the USMNT actually all play in Europe, most of them having moved to developmental academies in their teens. Christian Pulisic, whom I refer to as my baby boy, actually plays for one of the largest, most storied team in Europe, Borussia Dortmund—and get this, he’s really good. Another, Westin Mckinney, starts center midfield for Schalke. Both players and teams are going to be in the Champions League next year, while other players like Josh Sargent show promise to break into first teams at 18 years old. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. wins the 2026 World Cup.


Personally, I am hoping for throwback denim jerseys and mullets to come back around.


The Source: Alcides Carvalho

Coffee is oftentimes referred to as an affordable luxury. I agree. Let’s take a look at the work that has been done in coffee and tip our hats to those that have done so much to provide us all with daily access at very reasonable prices to the elixir we so dearly love. <

In my twenties I underestimated the inertia of things; in my thirties I pushed hard against that inertia in the direction I thought right. Now in my forties, I am still pushing hard. But after having done so much damn pushing, many times in contrary directions, I have developed an interest in peeking behind the curtain of that inertia—why things are the way they are and not the way we think they should be.  We grow up accepting things as they are. We reach an age, mentality, or perhaps hormone level where we rebel against that. As we grow older, one of the joys life can offer is to peel things back and peek into their existence to see how a confluence of events, oftentimes random, and/or a few exceptional individuals created the world in which we live. Maybe most of you knew this from day one, but it took a couple score to sink in for me.

In coffee, a great example of one of these individuals is Alcides Carvalho. Never heard of him? No worries, I hadn't either. But his work has impacted the lives of millions of coffee drinkers, and if you are reading this, I think it is a safe assumption that Alcides has had an impact on yours. Born in 1913, Alcides Carvalho worked as a geneticist at the Instituto Agronomico de Campinas for 59 years, up until his death from cancer in 1993. He developed 65 cultivars of coffee, and, by several estimates, over 90% of all Arabica coffee produced in Brazil came from his work.



When you explore that statistic, the numbers become jaw-dropping. Brazil produces a third of the world’s coffee. According to CONAB—the Brazilian governmental institution that gives us citable numbers—Brazil will produce 44,333,400 bags of Arabica coffee this year.* At 60 kilos, or 132.277 pounds per bag, Brazil produces 5,864,289,152 pounds of coffee a year. If you use the same 32 cups-per-pound yield we used above, that means Brazil “produces” 187,657,252,857 cups of Arabica coffee a year. Given that 90% of the genetics in Brazilian Arabica production came from the work of Alcides Carvalho, that means his work is responsible for 168,891,527,571 cups of coffee a year. One man, 168 billion cups of coffee a year—462 million cups of coffee a day. And that’s just his direct impact on Brazilian coffee. When you consider that these cultivars have made their way across the globe, both directly and as “ingredients” for newer cultivars, those numbers grow considerably larger.  

So the next time you really need a cup—the baby kept you up all night, long day ahead, term paper’s due, one too many the night before, or maybe you just enjoy drinking coffee—take a second to think that there was a Brazilian scientist who spent his life improving coffee quality so that you and millions of others across the globe could share in that source of joy.


*Most coffee references—CONAB, the International Coffee Organization (ICO), etc.—cite numbers in terms of “bags.” So what the hell is a bag of coffee? I remember watching the nightly news and listening to AM radio growing up in Iowa, daily hearing the latest crop prices per bushel, and thinking what the hell is a bushel and why don’t they just give the price in pounds so everybody can understand it?! I still can’t remember what a bushel is. But I guess you get pulled into the jargon and mindset behind it at some point. I have been doing work in SE Asia where they usually refer to coffee quantities in metric tons—totally logical and it should be a hell of a lot easier to absorb. But I need to convert tons to 60 kilo bags to actually make some sort of mental connection. Bushel man I have become, I guess.


The Source: Tha Pye Gone

Boy meets coffee, boy falls in love with coffee, boy travels the world taking sourcing shots, the staging of which has not been seen since MacArthur gallantly refused to roll up his combat trousers.


As the specialty coffee industry has become bigger and the world smaller, this smallness can be seen on my instagram feed with a constant stream of shots of roasters and baristas meeting those who produced their coffee (interspersed, of course, with latte art and well-plated food). I am generally reluctant to present sourcing from a first-person perspective, introducing myself into the narrative. Along with the feeling that I am trying to force people (i.e. you, dear reader) to watch my vacation slides (when you love what you do, it’s all a big vacation), I don’t know how to avoid the tendencies of adulation or patronization.

Adulation in that, caught up in the travel and the emotion, along with the caffeine, there is an obvious tendency to accept as fact everything that we are told, and to aggrandize everything we see. After all, we have made a choice to partner with these growers, love their coffee, and at the end of the day, have the common goal of selling said coffee to you, no less, dear reader.

On the other hand there is a tendency toward patronization, presenting oneself as either a coffee hunter or coffee savior.

The coffee hunter travels the world, going to the most remote and dangerous places to source exotic and rare coffees. (I know, there was a TV show about this and yes, I thought it was awful.) But coffee is the seed of a plant, and its quality neither stems from the remoteness of its location nor the exotic head garb of its cultivators, but rather from choices of genetics, crop management, and care taken in post-harvest. Even when the Indiana Jones narrative is conscientiously minimized, telling the story of how a coffee was produced often means telling a story of poverty. And what one set of eyes sees as telling the seed to cup story, another could easily see as glamorizing poverty to provide consumers a rustic tie to the land or to bygone times, and trying to profit off of a supply chain still largely based on cheap labor from historically oppressed populations.

The coffee savior is one who uses their historic position as “lord of the supply chain” to pay “more than the other guy would pay you.” But the “good” should not be defined by simply mitigating the bad, and Guy Travels the World, Applies Heat to a Seed, and Doesn’t Conscientiously Screw People Over is not really much of a story.

But perhaps I am being self-righteous about not being self-righteous. Please pardon my Midwestern ways. If you are still with me, please enjoy the recounting of my trip to a community that is growing one of my favorite coffees. I tried to put words together to describe the trip, but truth be told, the slide show (or scroll show) probably does it better.

This April I was finally able to visit the Tha Pye Gone community in Myanmar, producers of a coffee we have offered for the past two years. As a little background on the trip, over the past several years I have been blessed with the opportunity to contribute to the nascent Specialty Coffee industry in Myanmar by volunteering as a post-harvest consultant with the Coffee Quality Institute and Winrock International, hosting a port-to-cup tour in the US, and through our purchasing of Myanmar coffee at Little City. This opportunity has not only allowed us to bring some great coffees to Texas, but on a personal level I have made some deep friendships.

For those in the Specialty Coffee industry, it may seem like Myanmar came out of nowhere to becoming a fairly well-known origin. But having peered behind the curtain a (very) wee bit, that instant success is the result of the dedication and competence of many people such as Sai Wan Ming, Su Su Aung, Steve Walls, Nimish Jhaveri, Craig Holt, Min Hlaing, Pheelay, Thu Zaw, April McGil, Anne-Claire Degal, Lisa Conway, Ko Ko Win, Khun Tu Kyi, Andrew Hetzel, Ye Myint, Marcelo Pereira, Melanie Edwards, U Khine, Sara Morrocchi, Mye Mye Aye, Moe Sat, Amy VanNocker, and so many others… and, at the end of the day, President Barack Obama, who twice visited Myanmar and led an initiative for the U.S. to invest in a nascent democracy.

Last month I spent 2two weeks in Myanmar working at two new dry mills, Behind the Leaf and Amayar, to ensure the machines were working properly and the staff running the mills was adequately trained.  While there, I was able to get away for a day to visit Tha Pye Gone, a community Little City has partnered with to exclusively offer their coffees. Tha Pye Gone is inhabited by the Pa-O people, an autonomous ethnic community. The government of Myanmar officially recognizes 135 ethnic groups. Within Shan State, the Pa-O ethnic group is the second largest, behind the Shan people. Please visit here for some background information about the Pa-O people.

This partnership is through Behind the Leaf, a coffee wet mill and dry mill that was started by Melanie Edwards, an American (more specifically a North Carolinian) who has lived in Myanmar for over 15 years, dedicating her life to bettering lives in rural communities. Behind the Leaf is the coffee offshoot of Lilypad, a company that focuses on making water filters, and bricks, and training rural growers on raising rabbits. Behind the Leaf works with several local communities to produce high quality coffees.  

Rather than bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the trip, here is brief summary, followed by a slide (scroll) show.

Tha Pye Gone is about 20 minutes off Highway 43, lying at the end of a dirt road that passes through picturesque fields of rice and garlic as it winds upward. Upon arriving, we went to the house of Zaw Zaw Tun to pick up the latest harvest. Zaw Zaw is the agricultural leader of the community, and is well-versed in coffee and avocados, two of the principal crops of the community. He works with members to ensure they are properly tending to the plants, performing the harvest, and drying the coffee. He insisted that I put on traditional clothes and we sat around the stove and spendt a few hours talking about coffee and the history of the community. Melanie, Jweet, and U Khine distributed water filters to the community, I snapped some photos, we packed up the coffee, and then headed back at sunset. I have also included some photos from a Pa-O festival I attended. So, break out the popcorn, pour yourself a cup of joe or an adult beverage (hey, no judgement here) and enjoy the beauty of Tha Pye Gone, Behind the Leaf, and the Pa-O people. Not always, but sometimes beautiful coffees come from beautiful places… (and if you are reading this, thanks Melanie. You are an example of decency, integrity, and perseverance).


The Dock and Market at Inle Lake



The Road to Tha Pye Gone



Tha Pye Gone Sign



The Main Road of Tha Pye Gone



Zaw Zaw Tun



Zaw Zaw Tun’s Nursery at the Side of His House


Sitting with Zaw Zaw Tun at his house in traditional Tha Pye Gone clothes.



Jweet from Behind the Leaf delivering a water filter.



Taking the Filters Home



Bagging the Coffee to Take Back to Behind the Leaf



Tha Pye Gone Growers



Unedited Interview with Zaw Zaw Tun


Photos from a Pa-O Festival


Bright Lights, Little City: Guerilla Brewing

Little City's Eric Wolf owned and operated Lovejoys, a bar and brewery in downtown Austin from 2006-2012 where he first cut his teeth in the brewing and the craft beer industry.

No one ever said making beer was supposed to be easy, and at Lovejoys, I assure you that it was not.

Eric Roach and Daron White brewing an early batch on the new system, circa 1997

Eric Roach and Daron White brewing an early batch on the new system, circa 1997

In the mid-90’s, with his newly opened beer and coffee bar already thriving and recent changes to Texas’ brewing laws, Lovejoys founder Chip Tait and some of his Austin Homebrew Supply pals (Eric Roach, Daron White, et al) devised a plan to start brewing their own beer on-site. The franken-brewhouse that they built was unique to say the least - a leaky, square mash tun surely held together by the punk band stickers that covered its exterior, a plastic cold liquor tank that might be cold if the walk-in was working well that day and the brewer remembered to fill it the night before, and an indestructible beast of a custom-welded brew kettle with a clearly hazardous and likely out of code direct-flame burner. The conical fermentation tanks were probably the only pieces of the system intended for use in a brewery though they were oddly sized and crammed into a too-small closet with a cheap window a/c unit providing their only temperature control.


Equipment limitations aside, brew days brought a host of other challenges. Extreme conditions and limited space made the head brewer role at Lovejoys one of the toughest gigs in town. In what was essentially a hallway behind the bar, the space was tight with very little ventilation and poor drainage. It was always hot as hell and the floors were always wet and slippery. If you could avoid slipping and falling on your ass during a brew day then you were likely tripping over the mess of transfer hoses, pumps and extension cords covering every inch of walkable floor. Burns, cuts, shocks, and head bumps were inevitable and anyone who ever brewed a batch at 604 Neches surely has the battle scars to prove it.

Because we were only brewing for our direct customers and because we had neither the intention nor the capacity to distribute beyond our walls (it was illegal for brewpubs to distribute then anyway) we had a ton of freedom to experiment. The taps rotated constantly and we had no style requirements so we weren’t afraid to take chances. If something didn’t turn out as intended we just changed the name. A blonde ale got too warm during fermentation and went a little funky? Call it a sour ale! Miscalculated the amount of hops needed for that one? I guess it’s an IPA now. The brewery’s  limitations necessitated creativity and risk-taking and many of our greatest hits were the result of our misses.

The beer names ranged from clever to vulgar but were mostly bad puns (Dennis Hopper IPA) or named after a brewer’s dog (Samson’s Best, Sparky’s Special Ale among others). Energizer IPA was born when a brewer dropped his flashlight in the kettle during the boil and was resurrected years later when someone forgot to pay the electric bill (hint: it was me) and the power was shut off toward the end of a brew day. We ran every extension cord we had down the alley to plug the pump in on Jackalope’s patio a block down and finished the final transfer in the dark. For the sake of the story, I like to believe that it was the best damn beer we ever made, but I honestly don’t remember. Imagine that...


During the time Lovejoys was open, and primarily still, most brewpubs had a very specific atmosphere - big glass windows with shiny tanks on display under bright lights, long picnic tables, wooden flight boards, pizza and chicken wings, and typically the same 4-5 beer styles. We were nothing like that. We took pride in being the anti-brewpub. In fact we didn’t really think of ourselves as a brewpub at all. We were a bar that also made a little beer in the back room and hoped enough people dug it to justify making more. We showed total disregard for trends and had zero flash. The beer was always cheap and was usually good and we worked our asses off to make it happen. It was guerrilla brewing at its finest.

Brewer Todd Henry filling a growler of AJ Porter

Brewer Todd Henry filling a growler of AJ Porter

The Roast: Grackle

Everyone deserves a great cup of coffee. Fresh, seasonal, roasted to perfection. But what about your coffee flavor profile? The abstract mumbo jumbo flavor notes on the front of a bag and the nonsensical copy on the back (looking at you John) don't really tell us much about the coffee itself unless we understand the jargon. The number of times I’ve been asked if a coffee is flavored because of the flavor notes could make a grown man cry—and sometimes I do. We do our absolute best to provide a cup for everyone. Every blend fits a profile for any coffee drinker ready to take the training wheels off.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of time face-to-face with customers. As a barista, I really tried to help people discover their favorite drink or coffee. Not too dissimilar from Tom Hanks in the Davinci Code, this involved deciphering what people were trying to describe. “I don’t like acidic coffee,” could mean multiple things. It could be the literal acid quality of a bright washed coffee or perhaps the oils from a dark roast coffee that upsets their stomach. Helping people find their favorite coffee always brought me great joy. 

We knew we wanted to make a new blend and just weren't sure what it should be. So the only way to make a good, logical decision was to stop and take inventory of where we were and why. Like usual, I rejoined the never ending conversation between the Wolf and myself regarding our current blends. If you’ve participated in a tasting or class with me, you will know I refer to flavor profiles in relation to processing method first, then origin. For our blends we also add roast profile. So we started mapping out our blends using the X axis for Processing and Y for Roast.

X Axis

  • Washed Acidic 
    • 10 = Highly Acidic – Microlot quality 86+ (Kenya coffee for example) 
    • 5 = Medium Acidity – Washed Colombian blender
    • 2 = Low Acidity – Washed mild (close to a pulped natural profile)
  • Pulped Natural 
    • 0 = Coffee flavored coffee – Chocolate, caramel, nutty
    • Can fluctuate toward the acidic side or natural side 0–5 points 
  • Natural 
    • 10 = Ethiopia Natural – Bright and fruity
    • 5 = Brazil Natural – Medium fruit, heavy chocolate
    • 0 = Chocolate, caramel, pulped natural profile 

Y Axis

  •  -10 = Under roasted 
  • -5 + Microlot profile 
  • - 3 = Light roast
  • 0 = Medium roast
  • +3 = Medium dark 
  • 5 = Dark 
  • 10 = Charcol 

We have devised a set of blend profiles that allow us to visually plot flavor [or sensory] components and create blends that are truly distinct, resulting in a blend for every palette.


After mapping our current drip coffee blends, it was immediately apparent that we were missing a dark component with a natural fruity attribute. To fill that gap we needed to blend coffees that have the smooth dark chocolate body, floral aromatics and stone fruit flavor. After trying a few variations with our LC base dark and our LC natural blender, we decided on 70% LC base dark and 30% LC natural blender.


We named the resulting blend...




The next step in creating blends is likely the hardest, at least for me. We had to write copy for the bag sticker. But what can you say about a blend named after a dastardly bird that no one really likes? Here are a couple of our attempts.


  1. “The grackle is a black bird whose song crescendos to an irresistible chorus as she flocks with her peers in treetop clouds. Like this coffee, the collective spectacle is a natural delight. The Grackle Blend brings dark chocolate, almond, and blackberry voices to the ensemble, and our roaster's alchemy renders a rara avis indeed: a natural-inflected dark roast coffee that will hold your attention through a second cup and counting. Who cares why the black bird sings when she inspires such things!” - John Outler

    • Nice try, John, but this let the grackle off way too easy. We were looking for something a little (a lot?) more edgy.

  2. “That loud rusty gear and shattered glass cacophony overhead is a flock of grackles that want to darken your horizon and peel the pain off your car. That's why we named our new coffee The Grackle Blend. It's a natural dark roast with almond, blackberry and dark chocolate notes, so of course it will remind you of a terrifying flock of black birds that loom in illogically large numbers so they can gut you when you turn your back. Everyone deserves a great cup of coffee.”  - John Outler

    • OK, maybe this is too edgy? There’s got to be a happy medium.

  3. “The dark full bodied flavor covers the pallet like the black birds at the HEB parking lot. While the smooth chocolate and blackberry finish gleams through the darkness like the violet on the grackles coat. For as many similarities the bird may have with this blend, we are sure this coffee will have you singing a softer tune. “ - Ian Myers

    • Good one, Ian, getting there, but I’m struggling with the image (and flavor) of black birds on my palate. 

  4. The grackle teams, swarms and shreiks; they are like a slow-moving avian train wreck you can't look away from; their attraction is entirely negative, if utterly compelling. They raise more questions, some bordering on existential, than answers... why do they do what they do? why the fucking parking lot, FFS? what did we do to them? and why, in the name of all that is logical, did you name a coffee after them? seriously... Answer. That. Question.” - John Outler

    • OK, John, now you’re just showing your ass. Relax and have a cup of Grackle Blend.



Eventually landing on:


The Grackle—dark chocolate and ripe berries that will give you the confidence to ruffle your feathers, raise your beak, and shriek at the sky. Well, maybe not, but we're confident that one day the Grackles will not be content to scare the hell out of us when we go to the supermarket, so we figure we better start currying some favor.